Tragedy of Burnley Great war poet

The blood-soaked horror of the Western Front proved unlikely fertile ground for some of the most beautiful prose written in the English language, a terrible hell that would also inspire Burnley men to put pen to bloody paper.

T.H. Quarmby
T.H. Quarmby

One such was the sensitive and bright young man Gunner Thomas Henry Quarmby, of Glen View Road, was one such man who composed poems the famous Great War poets such as Owen, Sassoon and Brooke would have been proud.

Sadly, Thomas would not survive the war and the world would never know what other inspiring poems this former Burnley Grammar School pupil could have written.

He died aged just 23 on December 1st 1917 from wounds sustained at the onslaught at Cambrai while serving with the Royal Field Artillery.

During his all too short life, Thomas penned a number of poems which were published in the Burnley Express and which he described as "the only light in the surrounding darkness."

His poem ‘Epitaph (Not Premonition)’ is a hauntingly beautiful piece of a proud Burnley man doing his bit, knowing he may never see England again.

“If on the fields of blighted France my bones in death are fully thrown moan not my misfortunes cruel chance nor for my sake emit one moan.

View in my death, the proudest price that I for freedom’s sake shall give and smiling, pay the sacrifice so that our, English freedom live.

Deem not, tho’ laid in barren earth perchance beneath some barren stone I would exchange my stricken turf for some grass grave with fair flowers strewn.


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Is this not England, where her sons in thousands find their last long rest?

So in the sound of growling guns oh, let me lie with England’s best.

Here men will meet in future years to pay their homage to the slain and they shall smile mid sorrowing and cry “They have not died in vain”.

So fate, if ‘tis fated my lot out here to meet man’s destined end equal to any English plot this soil of France will be my friend.”


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Thomas is buried at the Grevillers British Cemtery in France.